For 37 years, Nelda Smith worked in medicine. When she retired, she said she needed to find something that would keep her busy as much as the medical field did.
It seems she found her niche.
Smith is an accomplished quilter. She enters into the Carter County Free Fair just about every year. This year was no different, with one exception. This year, she will take her talents from Ardmore to Oklahoma City.
"I'm excited to take my quilt to the state fair, and everyone around me is, too," she says. "I've seen the work there, and a lot of those ladies are professionals.
"We'll see how mine holds up."
Her entry is a quilt she dubbed "Santa Shingles," as she had a case of the shingles while she was making it. The quilt features 12 tiles of Santa Claus in different settings, the final one being of him with his feet in a warm bath "dreaming of getting a car one day," as Nelda puts it.
Smith says she created the individual tiles with different depictions because she enjoys a challenge when it comes to her quilting.
"I don't like it all to be the same, I like challenges, I like challenging myself," she says. "This one was a lot of fun."
Now take the difficulty of 12 completely unique tile designs, and add to the fold that she did it all by hand. It takes the difficulty and impressive nature of her quilt to a new level.
"It's a lot of fun doing it that way, I enjoy putting my hands in there and doing all the stitching and folding all myself," she says.
To non-Ardmoreites, the quilt's extravagance hits a dead end at this point. But to those who know their Ardmore history, the quilt has little hidden clues as to the material's origins. All of the colored work on the tiles and the outside of the quilt are done with men's neckties. But not just any ties — ties from historic men's clothing stores from Ardmore.
Tags from Daube's, L.O. Hannons, Decks, Jaeger's and various other Ardmore men's clothing stories can be found on the quilt.
"I find the ties at thrift stores and estate sales," she says. "I look for the tags and collect those to use for my quilts."
With a few exceptions, all of the color work on the quilt is done from these ties, not only giving the quilt a unique texture to it, but a bit of a history lesson as well.
Smith is a member of the Dickson HCE group and has been making quilts for several years. She says it's something she thoroughly enjoys and hopes to continue.
"I'm very proud of this one and several others I have entered here," she says. "It's going to be fun taking this to the State Fair this year and see how well it does."
Smith's quilt, as well as her other entries can be found in the north wing of the Hardy Murphy Coliseum during the Carter County Free Fair, which runs through Saturday evening.